Russia and the West have been locked in a feud over Ukraine that has resembled Cold War-era attitudes and relations — and a new poll shows many Russians still exhibit nostalgia for the Soviet era.
According to the poll from the Pew Research Center, 55% of Russians at least “mostly agree” that it is a “great misfortune” the Soviet Union no longer exists. And 61% at least mostly agree that “there are parts of neighbouring countries that really belong to Russia.”
Such attitudes go hand in hand with those of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He has said the fall of the Soviet Union was the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”
“As for the Russian people, it became a genuine tragedy. Tens of millions of our fellow citizens and countrymen found themselves beyond the fringes of Russian territory,” Putin said in 2005.
Amid the crisis in Ukraine, Putin has asserted the right of Russia to intervene on behalf of Russian-speaking citizens in Ukraine. He did so in Crimea, which eventually voted to secede and join Russia. Putin has continued this rhetoric, referring to parts of southeastern Ukraine as “Novorussia,” or New Russia.
This is where the action is currently in Ukraine, when masked pro-Russian gunmen have occupied buildings in eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. In Donestk, the separatists are calling for a referendum on secession to be held on Sunday, and defied Putin’s call to postpone it.
But the pro-Russian rebels running the “Donetsk People’s Republic” say they will hold the votethis weekend anyway.And with the rising tensions with the West has come an abrupt swing in how Russians view the U.S. This year, 71% of Russians say they have an unfavorable view of the U.S., compared with just 23% who have a favourable view.
That’s an astounding 37-point swing from last year, when 51% of Russians had a favourable view and only 40% viewed the U.S. unfavorably.
Meanwhile, only 15% of Russians now say they have confidence in U.S. President Barack Obama to “do the right thing regarding world affairs” — 80% are not confident.
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